Monday, December 8, 2014


Welcome to new subscribers to our family newsletter.
This newsletter now goes out to 70 separate email addresses. Considering we started with just 13 its great to see the word spreading.
The reunion is fast approaching.
Remember to register before the end of November for the current pricing.
Thanks to the many of you who have registered already. We are looking forward to the many of you coming from Australia.

The Death of Henry Cockroft Middlebrook
In a previous newsletter we researched the origin of the middle name of Henry Cockroft Middlebrook. Henry was the youngest child of John and Ellen Middlebrook. He was just a baby  when they arrived in New Zealand,so would have been the child most "at home" here, with no memory of his previous live in Yorkshire.
Sadly though Henry died aged 15.
For interest sake I ordered the death printout pretaining to Henrys death. He died of Phthitis which is another name for Tuberculosis, which coincidentally is the same illness that killed his father John.
While we have no proof to back this up, there is a theory that John's diagnosis of Tuberculosis may have been the reason the family emigrated to New Zealand in the first place as it was often suggested that sufferers move to a better climate.
If this was true then how tragic that the same disease would also kill his youngest child.

While researching the origin of the name of Henry Cockroft Middlebrook I discovered one of our most notable relatives.
Alfred E Evershed of Launceston Tasmania, was nominated twice, in 1935 and 1937 , for a nobel peace prize, based apparently on his writing in support of peace between nations.
His connection to us is complicated but in actuality for most of us he is a second cousin, 2 or 3 times removed which makes the link seem quite close indeed.
To trace the connection we need to go back to John Middlebrook ( the elder) and his siblings one of whom was Elizabeth who lived quite an interesting life it seems.
She married several times ( more on this later) and one of her marriages was to Henry Cockroft who was a cloth trader , and to whom she had 3 children , Ellen Middlebrook Cockroft, William Henry Middlebrook Cockroft, and Sarah Hannah Cockroft.
Unfortunately Henry died when Elizabeth was pregnant with Sarah, and even more tragically her only son William died a few years later aged only 4.
Elizabeth went on to remarry Thomas Sturdy, who bought up her daughters Ellen and Sarah. ( and they also had another daughter together named Elizabeth Sturdy.
Ellen Middlebrook Cockroft married Frederick Evershed and they had 5 children before Frederick also unfortunately died aged only 30.
Sarah married Alfred Evershed who was Frederick's brother. They took Ellen and Frederick's son Bertrand under their care and along with their other 6 children moved from their home in Sussex to Tasmania in the 1880s.
Sarah and Alfreds eldest son was Alfred Edward Evershed .
The following information is from theLaunceston Family Album website

Alfred Edward Evershed

Date of Birth 22 April 1870

Place of Residence Launceston Tasmania Australia

Spouses Name Did not marry

Childrens Names No children

Alfred Edward Evershed was born on 22 Apr 1870 in Littlehampton, Sussex, England, the elder son of Alfred Evershed (1839-1912), timber merchant, and his wife Sarah Hannah Cockcroft (c.1839-1928). He came to Tasmania with his family in Jan 1885. Educated by a governess, he later attended the Launceston Technical School which his father helped to establish. Alfred received a special first award for his carved coat of arms at the Tasmanian Exhibition in 1891-92. He was the secretary of the Literary Society in 1892.

By 1904 AE Evershed & Co. of 65 George Street, Launceston, were the agents for Merryweather's fire engines, hoses and equipment, ice and refrigeration machines and other items. Alfred Edward did not marry and died in Launceston on 31 May 1941 aged 71. He was buried at the Carr Villa Cemetery in Section C 224. His father and younger brother Harold are also in the Launceston Family Album. See The Examiner, 30 Dec 2006, page 31.
If anyone has any spare time and can research the Evershed descendants ( of the other children of Alfred and Sarah)  and let them know of our reunion it would be much appreciated. - We would welcome them !


We are still looking for further photographs to include in the Pictorial book which will be available at the reunion - please email Lauren if you have anything at all which may be of interest. This includes not just photographs from the 19th century but also 20th century photographs pertaining to the Middlebrook family.
If you do not have any way of scanning the photographs we may be able to organise someone to visit .
With Christmas between now and the Reunion date, and the busy season encroaching on our lives we have to set a close off date for any photos to be included in the Pictorial History books to be published for the reunion.
The last date for receipt of copies of photos to be included will be November 30.  If Lauren receives photos and stories before this date we will make every effort to have them included. After this date no guarantees can be made, so please dig out those photos and scan them, and more importantly jot down any stories or facts  you think may be of interest for inclusion in the book

Reunion Registration Details.

We are excited at the number of registrations we have already received. It sounds like there will be quite a few coming from Australia and this is great to hear.  Its very rewarding to think that through the reunion we are connecting so many family members together.
Reunion registration details are below.
Saturday 24th January - Cost $40 for adults, $10 for children 8-13, Free for children 7 and Under
11am - 4pm
The day will begin with check in where you will be issued with name tags denoting which branch of the family you belong to . This will make it easy for you to recognise those who descend from the same branch of the family as yourself.
From 12 noon we will have our photographer taking formal group photos of each branch of the family and of the whole group, along with roaming candid photos throughout the day.
These photographs will be available in an inexpensive  book form, after the reunion. Orders to be taken on the day or beforehand  via a form which will be included in a later newsletter.
Leading up to the reunion we will announce the price of  a photographic family history book which will be available for pre-purchase and pick up at the reunion. The book is well into production now. In order to include as many branches of the family as possible we need your input.  Please send any family stories and or photos to Lauren as soon as possible.
Finger food and tea and coffee will be supplied throughout the day and a cash bar will also be available for those who wish to make use of it.
There will be photographic and informational displays and a large family tree available for viewing.
Saturday primarily though is a mix and mingle event where we can all get to know each other.
Feel free to bring along any photos or copies, along with family mementos you wish to share or display.
Saturday Evening
This is at your leisure. We have suggestions for local restaurants for those interested.
Sunday 25th January - Cost $50 per adult, $45 per child 8-13 and $ 35 per child Under 7  ( Im sure we will be able to accommodate a lesser cost for children under 5 but we are still working on this)
12 noon - 3:00pm
Buffet Luncheon
Sit down lunch with presentations and speakers (descendants) and cutting of the Reunion Cake
Middlebrook Reunion Registration Form
If you prefer to print and fill in a paper form you can download it here
Saturday Evening
This is at your leisure. We have suggestions for local restaurants for those interested.
Sunday 25th January
12 noon - 3:00pm
Buffet Luncheon
Sit down lunch with presentations and speakers (descendants) and cutting of the Reunion Cake
Middlebrook Reunion Registration Form
If you prefer to print and fill in a paper form you can download it here

This photo above is apparently of Ruth and Joyce Johnson, daughters of Mary Lucinda Wishart (Maisie) Johnson (nee Middlebrook) .
We have no descendants of Maisie registered for the reunion.
What we know is :
Maisie had 4 children,
  • Glenda born 1913 and died 1940 apparently in childbirth though I have no confirmed marriage or spouse for her.
  • Ngaire Joyce Johnson, known as Joyce, born 1914- She married Warwick Francis Harvey and had two children that we know of, Warwick Lynton Harvey born 1937, and Jennifer Farrer Harvey born 1945. ( There could have been more children that we are unaware of). We can not find a death date for Joyce.
  • Ruth Johnson who married Wilfred Henry Pool - we dont know of her children at this point, but we know from electoral roll records that  she was living in Fearon Avenue Mt Eden in 1981 and she died in 1997.
  • Raymond Verdon Johnson who died as a baby in 1930
Can anyone shed any light on the whereabouts of any of Maisies descendants?
From Maisies will  ( in 1975) we know she left property in Auckland to Warwick Lynton Harvey who at the time lived in Tauranga, and left a house in Dillon Street Waihi to her daughter Ruth Pool.
She also left property to another Granddaughter- Glenda Arawa Lindsay .
Joyce and Jennifer are not mentioned in the will and I have yet to ascertain where Glenda Arawa Lindsay fits in.
If anyone has further information regarding Maisies descendants we would really appreciate you contacting any of us on the committee.

The Three Faces of Mary Jane Middlebrook- A Bit of Photographic Deception before Photoshop

Mary Jane Middlebrook nee Rea was the wife of Samuel Middlebrook. We dont have many photos of her, in fact at current count we have 2 definites and one possibly!
However what we do have are 3 versions of the one photograph.  I believe most descendants have a copy of the middle version shown here but we were lucky enough to come across  an untouched up version of the original photograph taken by Harry Whitnall Smith ( who we of course know was family, being married to Jane "Cis" Middlebrook, daughter of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook )
The full colourised version of the photograph shows Mary with hazel or brown eyes, and even the middle version she definitely has dark eyes but if you look at the original version its quite clear she had quite light coloured eyes ( probably blue) and certainly her hair shows the unruly curls which were passed down through several of her daughters and still is dominant in some of the current generations of descendants.
Which version of the photograph do you like best? - She certainly looks more elegant and refined in the touched up versions with the shading in teh cheek, lips and eyes, but knowing her life story and her unconventional relationships, I feel more connected to the untouched version which I think shows a bit more of her true spirit.

Middlebrook Family History Website is now Live

The first stage of the Middlebrook Family History Website is now up and viewable.
The Stories page is regularly updated so feel free to check for new images and stories .
Lauren will be adding to the next generation  pages as time permits

Remember to fill in a Family Group Sheet Form here if you havent already

Sunday, December 7, 2014

An Ancestor a Week for 20 weeks–WEEK 20!!- The Sad and Somewhat Mysterious Life of Amelia Fennell


The life of Amelia Fennell,(known as Amy), like that of her sister Ellen is shrouded in more than a little  mystery. Born Amelia McRa, the eldest child of Jane Middlebrook and James John McRa, She was born apparently in Tararu Creek Thames in 1869, however as there is no registered birth for her ( nor for her sister Nellie) we only know this , as it is what is stated on her marriage certificate. Even then,it may not be factual, but it is the truth as she had been told.
We know nothing of Amy’s childhood. She first appears in written family history at around age 19 in 1887, when her uncle Welsh McRa writes to Amy’s mother Jane,  suggesting that her current working position with another Uncle and Aunt is possibly not working out to Amy’s best interest, and he removes her from there and returns her to her mother in Opua. (Though it isnt completely clear, it appears Amy’s sister Ellen (Nellie) may also have been with her at the time.
It sems Amy stays in Opua as she appears there in the 1893, and 1896 electoral rolls as a Domestic Servant, but it isnt until the 2nd October 1902, aged around 35 that she married Patrick Fennell,  in Russell Bay of Islands . It seems a strange match. Patrick, a widower, is aged 73 at the time of their marriage. A huge age gap by any standards.
Amy and Patrick remain living in Opua. They went on to have two children, Nicholas John Charles Fennell (known as Charlie) born 1905 (Amy would have been 39 and Patrick 76) and seven years later George Duncan Fitzroy Fennell ( at this point Amy would have been aged 43 and Patrick a venerable 83 year old!!)   Good things were not to come for the Fennell family.

Northern Advocate 4th February 1916
In Wednesday's "Advocate" we published some comments made by Inspector Skynner to the Bay of Islands Hospital Board.-The report dealt with the case of an old man, Mr P. Fennell, of Opua. Fennell was a cancer patient and Inspector Skynner complained that he had been driven from pillar to post. Describing the case the inspector continued:—"First he was taken to the Old Men's Home at Whangarei; thence to the Knox Home for Incurables at East Tamaki, and at the instance of the trustees of that institution back to his home a Opua. I consider it my duty to point out in the strongest language. I possibly can that I consider the whole position a most disgraceful one, and if such institutions,  as the Costley Home, the Knox Home for Incurables, and the Old Men's Home at Whangarei will not provide a resting place for our''aged poor”, whose days are probably numbered through suffering from some incurable disease, I consider it is your Board's duty to suffering humanity to bring the position under the notice of the Hon. Minister for Public Health."
Northern Advocate , 8 May 1917, Page 2
In comment on the lack of an essential provision the "Luminary" has the following:—"There is no institution North of Auckland set apart for the care and treatment of persons suffering from incurable diseases, and the Knox Home for Incurables, in Auckland, refuses to receive patients from this district. These facts were brought out at the meeting of the Hospital Board on Friday, owing to a letter received from the house manager of the Auckland hospital asking the board what it was going to do with Mrs Fennell, a resident of Opus, Bay of'-Islands, now lying in the Auckland institution suffering from an incurable disease. It will be remembered that in 1915 Mr Fennell, of Opua, was found to be suffering from cancer. He was 84 years of age and was in a deplorable condition with the disease. The poor old man was sent to the Old Men's Home, Whangarei, which refused to keep him, so the Board sent him to the Knox Home for incurables, Tamaki, Auckland; but even there he was not allowed to rest and was packed back to Opua. The local Board then placed him in a shanty in the hospital grounds, where he soon after died. Now his wife is afflicted with the same disease, and it looks as if the poor woman is to be driven from pillar to post like her dead husband was.

Amy died on May 4th 1917, and it seems the 2 boys, Charlie aged 12 and George aged just 5 were split up. George was bought up by his maternal uncle, John Roderick McRae who was a bootmaker in Paptoetoe. George went on eventually to take on the same trade.  Charlie though, aged 12 went elsewhere. By 1923 he was in Awakeri, Bay of Plenty. He remained in the Bay of Plenty area for the rest of his life.